I Am The Flag
I am America’s flag, “Old Glory”. I wave over post offices, courthouses and public schools. Every morning I am run up the pole and every evening I am ceremoniously brought down. I fly at half mast to honor the dead. I drape the caskets of heroes. Then, when I am tattered and worn, I am burned on a funeral pyre worthy of a fallen warrior. I also fly over banks, fast food restaurants and shopping malls. I am on bumper stickers, pins and patches. People all across America post me outside their homes.
There is even a “Flag Code” laying out the rules for each of these occasions, yet the violations are everywhere to be seen. Is the flag outside your house “properly illuminated” at night? Do you fly your flag in bad weather? Are you wearing me as a part of your clothing? By the way, the Flag Code says that I may be used as a pin or patch on a police uniform, not clothes worn by hippies.
People used to know these things. When Abbie Hoffman appeared on TV in the 60’s wearing a shirt made from me, America was not allowed to see it. They actually blanked out the part of the screen from his neck down. Oh, the horror. Everyone knows that when a police officer or soldier, or even a clean cut white American wears me, they mean it as a sign of respect and are therefore good citizens, while kids with long hair can only mean it as a sign of disrespect.
Since 9/11 I’ve also fluttered from cabs driven by arabs and turbaned Sikhs who think it’s a magic talisman that will ward off anger and racism. They’re wrong, but they’re not alone. For all of America’s history people have granted me magical powers:
“We saw through the night that our flag was still there.”
“Shoot if you must this old grey head, but spare your country’s flag.”
“Let’s run it up the flagpole and see who salutes.”
The truth is I have no powers, no magic. I fly over courthouses whether justice is served inside or not. I’ve been taken to lynchings and then flown over the courthouses where the murderers were set free. Sometimes, innocent people go to jail while I continue to flutter, unconcerned. I’ve been to wars, good and bad. I was carried by the men who drove Indians onto reservations and took Japanese-Americans to internment camps.
Yet, I am the same flag that flew over Iwo Jima and was carried from victory to victory over fascism. I fly over embassies in lands where people can only look up at me and dream of the freedoms I promise. In those same lands they rend me and burn me and think they have hurt me. More importantly they think they have hurt the land I represent. How stupid is that?
In America people seek to protect me. To punish anyone who would dare abuse me. I say to them that nothing can hurt me. Not tearing or burning. Let people put me on napkins or museum floors. If they mean it as a symbol of hate, they have failed. If they think they have accomplished something, they haven’t. Let them foul me and burn me. I can take it, and so can America.
Thank you for flying me everywhere. Thank you for being proud of me, but do not insult me by using me to serve your hatred or base political purposes. Do not expect me to sanctify your actions, if they are foul. I do not need to be worthy of you, but you must strive to be worthy of me.
Happy Independence Day. Bless all of you and bless The United States of America.